There’s nothing like a deadline to spark your creativity! Or so some people claim. For others, it just sparks anxiety.
Whether you’re writing a timed essay in class or you had some unforeseen circumstance and didn’t start working on your essay until the last minute, it’s important to put that anxiety to the side and focus—and I’ll show you how to do just that.
I can’t write your essay for you, but I can show you the best way to write an essay quickly. And since you’re short on time, let’s jump right into it.
Choosing Your Topic
If your teacher didn’t assign a specific topic and you haven’t already chosen one, you have to pick one yourself. This can often be the first of many stressful steps in the essay-writing process.
You may fear that choosing the wrong topic is setting yourself up for failure. But the only wrong topic is the one that you can’t support.
A good thing to do is spend just a minute or two writing down whatever stuck out to you most in the literature you’re writing about. Did you like (or loathe) a certain character? Did the symbolism jump out at you? What about the foreshadowing?
From this list you can choose the one you think you could write about in the most detail. Don’t spend too much time on this task. In this case, you don’t want something you’ll have to do too much research to complete.
Sticking to the parts of the story that you’re most familiar with or that stuck out to you most helps you recall details faster—and faster is what you need.
If you aren’t writing about a specific piece of literature, it might seem difficult to narrow the focus of your paper to a single topic.
Fortunately, we have a ton of topic ideas to help give you inspiration for the following types of essays:
- Cause and Effect
- Compare and Contrast
For these types of essays, the same advice applies: write what you’re most familiar with. It’ll save you time in the research process.
If you’re still stumped on a topic, see what other students have written about, and draw inspiration from example essays.
Do you have your topic? Good! We can move on to the outline.
Drafting a Quick Outline
Once you have your topic picked out, you may be tempted to go straight into the writing. After all, making an outline is just an unnecessary step in the process, right? Wrong!
Outlines are necessary
The best way to write an essay is to include as much detail as time permits in the outline. This accomplishes three things:
- Keeps your essay organized. And organization helps you get a better grade.
- Ensures you don’t forget anything. This means you won’t have to go back and change too much in the end.
- Lets you write your essay much more quickly. If you deal with the details upfront, you won’t have to worry about flipping through the book with every other sentence you write.
If you have enough detail in your outline, all you have to do when you start writing is turn the details into fuller, prettier sentences and then connect them with logical transitions.
If you need help structuring your outline, here are seven templates to get you started.
How do you write a detailed outline quickly?
Ideally, you took some notes when you were reading through the book. If you did, search the notes, and if you didn’t, flip through your book again.
You’re looking for specific information related to your topic here. If you’re writing about a particular setting or character, you don’t have to look at information for every single scene. You only need to look at the ones in which that setting or character appears.
Another option is getting inspiration from sites like Kibin. There are tons of resources that quickly explain different literary elements of certain novels and plays.
Keep in mind, however, that you probably will not be able to get all the information you need to write your essay from these sites. However, you might find the major plot points, brief character analyses, and major symbols.
Using these symbols and analyses as bases for your outline allows you to get the bigger picture sorted out. Then all you need to do is look through your notes or the literature for support.
What are the essential outline elements?
There are certain elements you’ll always want to include in your outline, no matter how detailed it is or isn’t:
Pro Tip: If there’s a part of the outline you’re stuck on, skip it and come back to it later. I usually write my outline in this order:
- Thesis statement
- All of my main arguments
- All of my supporting evidence
I view the hook as important, but not as important as the content of the essay. I also have a hard time getting started. So if I just jump right into the meat of my argument, I can write much faster.
You may have more trouble with the supporting evidence or the conclusion. The good thing about the outline is that you’re not investing enough time in it to feel badly if you have to change anything.
Tips for Writing on the Fly
Different types of assignments and different circumstances mean that there’s not just one best way to write an essay when you’re short on time. However, there are a few tips that help in any situation.
First, it’s important that you don’t second-guess yourself too much during the writing process. If you filled out all the details during the outlining stage, there’s no reason to get caught up on organization—all that work is done already.
If you’re stressing out about word choice, just remember: you’re not trying to be Shakespeare—you’re just trying to write a coherent paper.
Bonus tips for the best way to write an essay
Use a computer when possible. Unless you’re writing an essay in class, using a computer can save you so much time and hassle. It’s got an automatic (though fairly basic) spell checker and a thesaurus, and you can use the Find function (ctrl+F) if you think you’re repeating words.
Follow your outline like a roadmap. Go from point A to point B, and don’t skip around. This way, you know you’ve included everything, and your transitions will be easier to write.
Pretty soon, you’ll be wrapping up the conclusion and ready for the editing process.
A Fast Guide to Fast Edits
Editing is more than just checking for spelling errors. And the amount of editing you have to do depends on how confident you are in the first draft.
However, even if you’re an excellent writer, everyone makes mistakes (especially when they’re writing quickly). So here’s how to do some quick edits.
First, look at your outline and check to see if you included all the key points from your outline in your essay. This shouldn’t take more than a minute (unless your paper is very long). If you a little time to spare, you could also use a reverse outline.
Then, make sure you run it through a spelling and grammar check in Word or whatever word processor you’re using. After that, give it a final read-through, and correct any mistakes that are still there.
Here’s a few resources on self-editing worth keeping in your back pocket for just such an occasion:
- Avoid These 10 Common Grammar Mistakes in Your Paper
- How to Revise an Essay and Make It Better Than Ever
And that’s it! The key takeaway here: the best way to write an essay is all about being prepared and having a game plan.